Ming Pao workers camp out for better jobs

Angela Fung has spent three nights out in the cold in the last three weeks.

“It’s cold, it’s very tiring,” she said. “It’s miserable.”

Fung is among the 139 employees at Ming Pao who walked off their jobs on Sept. 20 and started picketing 24 hours, seven days a week.

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Holding signs outside the Chinese daily newspaper’s office near Brimley Road and Huntingwood Drive, the workers are demanding job security, better wages, shorter working hours and more vacation days.

Simon Sung, a graphic designer at Ming Pao, said he and his colleagues are asking for the same benefits their counterparts at Sing Tao, Ming Pao’s competitor, already have.

Job security, Sung said, is the most pressing issue as workers at Ming Pao don’t have a contract.

Ming Pao has been using “any excuse” to lay off core members of the union ever since 65 per cent of workers joined the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada (CEP) Local 87-M Southern Ontario Newsmedia Guild in January 2010, Sung said.

“Obviously, the action [was taken] to minimize the union’s power,” he said.

There have been no talks between Ming Pao and the workers since the newspaper’s final offer for a contract “fell short of what anyone could interpret as fair,” Paul Morse, the president of CEP, said.

“We hope the company comes back to the table with a fair offer,” said Morse, who refused to get into the details of what the last offer looked like.

Ming Pao’s management could not be reached for comment despite repeated phone calls.

The workers said their employer has not contacted them since the day they started striking.

Friends and strangers bring food and drinks to protesters camping out at 1355 Huntingwood Dr.

NDP MPs Olivia Chow and Rathika Sitsabaiesan visited the workers on the picket line last Sunday to show their support.

Meanwhile, some of the employees still going to work “sneak in through the back,” said Pinky Chan, a traffic coordinator at Ming Pao.

“One of them used a scarf to cover her face,” she said.

Fung and her colleagues on the picket line said they will continue to strike until an agreement is reached with their employer.

The strike challenges a cultural dogma, Fung said.

“Chinese people are afraid of [speaking out].”